ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

2001Subscribe to 2001

Nepal : Not By Force Alone

For the second time since 1990 an emergency has been declared in Nepal. However, unlike the first time, when the declaration of emergency preceded widespread changes in the country’s political set-up, this time it seeks to equip the government with extra-constitutional powers to wage an all-out campaign against the Maoist rebels, whose “people’s war” against the government and the constitutional monarchy since 1996 has claimed over 1,700 lives. In the past one week alone nearly 250 people, mainly policemen, have been killed in incidents of Maoist violence. This follows the end of the ceasefire and the petering out of the several rounds of talks between the Deuba government and the Maoists.

A Maturer WTO

The biggest gain for India from the fourth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation that concluded at Doha on November 14 is that a fresh round of trade negotiations has been kicked off. It is also to India’s advantage that the Doha meet has incorporated into the WTO agenda several concerns of developing countries and by doing so promises to take the process of globalisation and global integration ahead. India played a proactive role in the negotiations. Although it could be argued that trade minister Maran and his team displayed more vigour in pushing what have come to be identified as India’s national postures than in correctly identifying what indeed are our national interests, there is no gainsaying that India played an important role in securing a major achievement of the summit – developing country assertion of their interests.

Dead Hand of Government

The government gives, the government also takes away. Early this year the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to permit the export of urea. It has now changed its mind: no, urea will not be allowed to be exported. It is seldom considered necessary to give reasons for such changes of policy, or even to make proper public announcements. The decisions are conveyed to those directly concerned – say, the fertiliser producers in this case, from whom the news may, or may not, be picked up and carried in the media. So much for transparency and accountability in the government’s functioning.

Beyond Afghanistan

The bomb and missile attacks by US and British aircraft on targets in Afghanistan connected with the Taliban regime and with Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organisation, which got under way on Sunday, had been prepared for elaborately from the moment the US pinpointed bin Laden and Al Qaeda as the prime suspects in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. As the world watched with bated breath, the US and Britain had set about putting together the most awesome assembly of military personnel and materiel all around Afghanistan for precisely this operation. A relentless diplomatic effort too had been mounted to get an impressive number of countries to permit combat aircraft to use their air-space and some also to agree to the stationing of troops on their territories. The air attacks on Afghanistan have been on for less than a week and there is no indication yet of when the expected, but far more problematic, land operations would begin. But already it is clear that, even if the US government’s most optimistic expectations of it are fulfilled, the military effort directed at Afghanistan cannot be the all-important, or the most effective, element in the success of the drive against terrorism that it has been made out to be by the Bush administration.

Punjab : Covering Up Non-Performance

Anti-incumbency has been an important in elections in Punjab, especially in the last decade. This was last evident in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections which were swept by the Congress. Yet chief minister and leader of the ruling AD-BJP coalition, Prakash Singh Badal, seems to have learnt little from experience and seems set on the same electoral gambles that had cost his party dear in the 1999 elections.

Sugar : Political Pricing of Cane

The approaching elections in Uttar Pradesh have upped the stakes in fixing the minimum support price for sugarcane in the state. The Rajnath Singh government wants to raise the state-advised price (SAP) by Rs 50 per tonne, from Rs 900 now, for the new crop year 2001-02 (October-September). The sugar industry in the state, which already has pending dues of over Rs 1,000 crore to be paid to farmers and is burdened with huge sugar stocks, wants the SAP to be maintained at the current level. However, given the political compulsions, it seems inevitable that there will be a hike in the sugarcane price. SAP-induced troubles afflict other sugar-producing states too. In Tamil Nadu, a white paper tabled recently in the assembly acknowledged that high SAP for cane has severely affected the finances of sugar mills in the state, pushing many into the red. Other states also have sugar mills reeling under huge debt burdens as a result of arbitrarily fixed cane prices.

Andhra Pradesh : Setback for TDP in Panchayat Elections

The results of the panchayat elections in Andhra Pradesh reflect the highly polarised political situation in the state. No immediate shift in voting patterns has been observed, and though the TDP lost a number of seats, it did not see a major decline in its vote share. The elections however, mark a rejuvenation of Congress' fortunes, which the TDP will find hard to confront given its several internal dilemmas and contradictions.

Russia vs Paris Club:Default on Debt Repayment

Russia, in the beginning of 2001, finds itself in danger of defaulting on its debt repayments to the Paris Club. One opinion believes that the Russian economy is in dire straits and in no position to repay. On the contrary, the west - including Russia's main creditor, Germany and other influential economists and rating agencies believe that the issue has been mismanaged by the Russian authorities. Not only is there lack of coordination among different branches of the Russian government, it has also been unable to contain capital flight and money laundering of funds that are desperately needed for ecnomic development.
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